Spokane Journal of Business

Sustainable gift-bag maker Tokki hopes to go national

Startup's products made with recycled plastic, come with digital card

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-—Virginia Thomas
Tokki Inc. co-founder Taylor Hoit says the startup is talking with a major retailer that has a presence in Spokane about the 2023 holiday season, but she declines to name the potential client.

A sustainable gift bag company headquartered in Spokane has launched its core product, has a deal in the works with a large national retailer for next year’s holiday season, and is fundraising through crowdfunding.

The company, Tokki Inc., is the brainchild of co-founders Jane Park and Taylor Hoit. Park, Tokki’s CEO, is the founder of cosmetics company Julep Inc., and currently lives in Seattle. Hoit, the company’s COO and CTO, is a Spokanite who spent several years on the West Side after attending University of Washington, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science before returning here in 2013 to work remotely for companies based in Seattle.

Tokki gift bags are made from recycled plastic and come with a small card bearing a QR code, a type of bar code that can be read with a QR code reader on a cell phone. When scanned, the QR code links to an electronic card that can contain videos and still and animated images in addition to a text message to the recipient from the gift giver.

“It’s a three-in-one solution,” Hoit says. “It’s the bag, and then the digital card, and we put a snap on the top, so you don’t need tissue paper.”

The rectangular bags come in a few sizes, and retail online for $12 each, or $80 for a bundle of 15.

The QR code is what sets Tokki apart from other sustainable gift packaging companies, Hoit says. Users have the option to make their card public and can track the bag as it’s gifted to other people.

“After I gift one to you, you can add a new card on top and gift it to your mom or sister,” Hoit says. “You can sign up for notifications to learn every time your bag has been regifted. You can log back in and see where it travels.”

Tokki QR code cards also help users to visualize how much waste they’ve saved by foregoing traditional giftwrap options.

The company was born from Park’s observation of the waste of traditional options, Hoit says. In 2019, Park found herself surrounded by piles of wrapping paper, gift bags, and tissue paper after the holiday gifting season, and was surprised to learn that some gift wrap options aren’t recyclable, such as tissue paper embedded with metallic glitter. Park thought of her Korean grandmother, who had wrapped gifts in squares of silk.

“(Park) came up with this idea of a reusable gift wrap, but with a tech spin on it so it’s more engaging and fun and makes reuse something you want to do,” Hoit says. “That’s when she reached out to me to handle the tech side of things.”

Tokki, pronounced toe-key, means rabbit in Korean. The rabbit concept is connected to the way the gift bags will “hop” around the world, Hoit says.

Park was in the middle of a career hop when she asked Hoit to help her launch Tokki. Park had sold Julep, and needed tech help to launch Tokki. At the time, Hoit was manager of Julep’s web software engineering team, working remotely from Spokane.

In June, Tokki debuted its core product, the gift bag made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate, also called PET, products such as water bottles.

Hoit and her husband, Jordan—who is Tokki’s vice president of operations—are two of five employees who work in Spokane. Two Tokki employees are based in Seattle, and one lives in San Diego.

Tokki started out of Hoit’s home on the South Hill, and moved in July 2021 to the Riverwalk building, which is anchored by No-Li Brewhouse. Tokki occupies 13,000 square feet, which Hoit says is more than enough room for the company to grow.

Tokki has filed 10 patents for its digital card accessed via QR code concept in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, and Australia. 

The PNW Dream boutique, located in the River Park Square mall downtown, is currently the only physical store in Spokane at which Tokki bags are sold. The PNW Dream owner Corinna Ren has designed 10 prints for Tokki bags, Hoit says.

“We hope to be in more boutiques and stores here,” Hoit says.

Tokki probably won’t create its own storefront. Hoit says the company prefers to sell directly to customers online, or through retailers.

Tokki bags are sold by about 280 retailers in the U.S., Hoit says. Many of those stores are in the South.

She says Tokki’s rollout in the Inland Northwest has been quieter than planned.

“Unfortunately, our sales rep for Washington and Oregon quit through the sales agency we were using,” Hoit says. “We didn’t get the amount of sales that we wanted here in Washington.”

Tokki is gearing up now for a holiday season 2023 vendor partnership with a national big box retailer, which Hoit declines to name.

“It’s a retailer that we have here in Spokane. I think it’s everyone’s favorite for big box stores,” Hoit says. “We’re doing an exclusive line with them, with exclusive prints. We’re working on the growth that we can experience through that brand.”

To fund inventory for the order, Tokki is crowdfunding through the StartEngine platform online until February 2. As of Dec. 12, the company had raised more than $102,000 through StartEngine. The platform estimates Tokki’s valuation at $20 million. 

Tokki previously had been self-funded, Hoit says.

The company had a turbulent beginning, she says. Tokki, which had started with gift bags made from cotton, launched shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Introducing a reusable product at a time when disposable products were in high demand posed a challenge, Hoit says. Tokki pivoted to making cloth masks, then created an online sales option for one of a selection of gifts to be sent in a Tokki bag directly to the recipient.

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the health care industry. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys traveling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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